A confluence of events appears to have created a curious new talking point on the right. With former President George W. Bush’s library set to open, and last week’s Boston Marathon bombing still very much on the public’s mind, Republican pundits see value in trying to tie the two together in the hopes of improving Bush’s reputation.
The Washington Post‘s Jennifer Rubin, for example, published this gem yesterday:
“Unlike Obama’s tenure, there was no successful attack on the homeland after 9/11.”
A few hours later on Fox News, Eric Bolling echoed the sentiment.
“I will tell one thing, from you 9/12/01 until the time President Obama raised his right hand January of ’09, the man kept us safe. And there — you certainly can’t say that since President Obama has taken the oath of office.”
When it comes to Bolling, I should note that this is an improvement from his previous stance. Two years ago, he suggested on the air that he didn’t recall 9/11 at all: “America was certainly safe between 2000 and 2008. I don’t remember any terrorist attacks on American soil during that period of time.”
I should also note that neither Rubin nor Bolling seemed to be kidding. Their comments weren’t satirical or jokes intended to make Republicans appear silly.
As for the substance, there are three main angles to keep in mind. The first is the bizarre assertion that President Obama somehow deserves the blame for the bomb that killed three people in Boston last week, because he didn’t “keep us safe.” The argument reflects a child-like understanding of national security and is absurd on its face.
Second, though the right likes to pretend otherwise, there were terrorist attacks during Bush/Cheney’s tenure — after 9/11 — that shouldn’t be ignored. Indeed, it’s a little tiresome to hear Republicans argue in effect, “Other than the deadly anthrax attacks, the attack against El Al ticket counter at LAX, the terrorist attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, Bush’s inability to capture those responsible for 9/11, waging an unnecessary war that inspired more terrorists, and the success terrorists had in exploiting Bush’s international unpopularity, the former president’s record on counter-terrorism was awesome.”
And finally, I’m not sure Republican pundits have fully thought through the wisdom of the “other than 9/11″ argument.
Bush received an intelligence briefing on Aug. 6, 2001, at which he was handed a memo with an important headline: “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.”
Bush, however, was on a month-long vacation at the time. He heard the briefer out and replied, “All right. You’ve covered your ass, now.” A month later, al Qaeda killed 3,000 people.
For Rubin and Bolling, the response is, in effect, “Yeah, but other than that, he kept us safe.” The problem, of course, is that’s roughly the equivalent of saying other than that iceberg, the Titanic had a pleasant voyage. Other than that one time, Pompeii didn’t have to worry about the nearby volcano. Other than Booth, Lincoln enjoyed his evening at Ford’s Theater.
It is, in other words, a little more difficult to airbrush catastrophic events from history.
I can appreciate the zeal with which Republican pundits want to rehabilitate Bush’s poor standing, but they’ll have to do better than this.
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 24, 2013
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, Osama bin Laden’s son-in-law and an al Qaeda spokesperson, appeared in a New York courtroom this morning, and pleaded not guilty to plotting to kill Americans. It was his first court appearance after having been captured on Feb. 28 and flown to New York last week.
Of course, there apparently has to be a political angle to the proceedings, and as Adam Serwer noted, several congressional Republicans are “furious” at the Obama administration for “prosecuting an alleged terrorist.” And why might that be? Because the GOP officials disapprove of the use of the federal court system.
Several Senate Republicans are slamming the administration’s to move its latest terror suspect through the federal court system, bypassing the military tribunals in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. [...]
“Military detention for enemy combatants has been the rule, not the exception. By processing terrorists like [Ghaith] through civilian courts, the administration risks missing important opportunities to gather intelligence to prevent future attacks and save lives,” according to a joint statement by Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Lindsey Graham (R.S.C.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.).
Do we really have to explain this to Congress again?
Look, we have a very capable system of federal courts, which have tried and convicted plenty of terrorists. We have also have a terrific system of federal penitentiaries, which have a record of never, ever allowing a convicted terrorist to escape.
On the other hand, we also have a system of military commissions, which tend to be an ineffective setting for trying suspected terrorists. It’s why every modern presidential administration has relied on civilian courts for these kinds of trials. It’s why the Pentagon, Justice Department, and intelligence agencies are unanimous in their support for trying accused terrorists in civilian courts. It’s why folks like David Petraeus and Colin Powell — retired generals McCain, Graham, and Ayotte tend to take seriously — agree with the Obama administration and endorse Article III trials.
So why must Republicans rely on stale, misleading talking points?
By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, March 8, 2013
No doubt President Obama was deeply stung over the weekend to hear Dick Cheney criticize his new national security team. At a Wyoming Republican Party dinner, the former vice president briskly dismissed Obama’s choices as “dismal,” saying that America needs “good people” rather than the “second-rate” figures selected by the president, particularly Vietnam veteran and long-time U.S. senator Chuck Hagel, nominated by the president as Secretary of Defense.
For sage advice on security policy and personnel, after all, there is no living person whose approval could be more meaningful than Cheney. It is hard to imagine a record as profoundly impressive as that of the Bush-Cheney administration, back when everyone knew that he was really in charge of everything important — especially the war on terrorism, the war in Iraq, and the war in Afghanistan.
True, Cheney’s intelligence apparatus failed to capture or kill Osama bin Laden after 9/11 – indeed, failed to prevent the 9/11 attacks, despite ample warnings that began with Bill Clinton’s farewell message in January, 2001 and culminated in a blaring President’s Daily Brief from the CIA in August 2001. True, Cheney’s defense command allowed bin Laden and Mullah Omar to escape following the invasion of Afghanistan, while American and NATO troops slogged through that deadly conflict without a plausible goal or even an exit strategy. And true, the national security cabinet run by Cheney misled the nation into war against Iraq, on false premises, without adequate preparation or clear objectives, at a cost of many thousands of lives and trillions of dollars. And true, too, the ultimate result was to embarrass the United States repeatedly while increasing the regional power of the mullahs in Iran.
How can Obama presume to compare his own record with all of that?
Obviously Cheney’s success cannot be measured by achievement alone. That wouldn’t be fair at all. No, his success resides in the capacity to commit disastrous misconduct and malfeasance in office, and still be taken seriously by the serious people in Washington, D.C.
If only the president were sensible enough to appoint figures of the same caliber as Cheney’s choices in the Bush years – men such as Donald Rumsfeld, whose capacity to deceive the public remains unequaled a full decade after he first declared utter certainty about the whereabouts of Saddam Hussein’s huge, perilous cache of “weapons of mass destruction.”
“We know where they are. They’re in the area around Tikrit and Baghdad and east, west, south and north somewhat,” explained Rummy somewhat inanely. He also assured us that the Iraqi people would warmly welcome U.S. troops, that the war would require a commitment of no more than six months, and that we wouldn’t need to send an overwhelming force of troops to prevail.
Like his old comrade and boss Cheney, Rumsfeld remained perfectly arrogant and absolutely rigid to the end and beyond, even as all his predictions and promises proved tragically hollow. Even when he came under attack by the neoconservative propaganda apparatus, led by Weekly Standard editor William Kristol, for “glibly passing the buck” for administration failures, Rumsfeld never admitted any fault or responsibility. Leaving office in disgrace, he spent years composing a farrago of falsehoods to be published between hard covers, seeking to justify his reign of error — and topped the bestseller lists following a triumphant tour of television and radio.
Now there was a first-rate Defense Secretary. President Obama, please take note.
By: Joe Conason, the National Memo, February 11, 2013
Sunday the Salt Lake City Tribune endorsed President Barack Obama and asked the $64 million question about former Gov. Mitt Romney, which is, “Who is this guy anyway?” The editorial answered its own question when it called Romney, the former liberal and former conservative and current moderate candidate, the “shapeshifting nominee”. In the first debate, a passive President Obama let Romney get away with statements the former governor made that night that contradicted assertions he made during the GOP nomination campaign. Last night and in the previous debate, the president challenged Romney’s flip flops, and the commander in chief scored big points.
To put it in the president’s terms, you have Rommesia if you previously opposed setting a date for U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and flip flopped last night by calling for the withdrawal of American troops from that war torn land by the end of 2014. Romney was the passive voice Monday night when he endorsed much of the president’s foreign policy agenda night, which makes you wonder why Romney is running and why anybody should vote to replace the current commander in chief. I half expected the challenger to end the debate Monday by announcing his withdrawal from the race because he agreed with so many of the president’s decisions.
The first candidate to bring up Russia last night was the president, which is odd because Romney believes that the former Soviet Union was our “No. 1 geopolitical foe.” I’m sure Romney’s foreign policy priority prompted a lot of chuckles from the party boys in the Forbidden City and from the amused mullahs in Tehran. If they were still alive, Osama bin Laden and the rest of the al Qaeda leaders would have laughed when they heard Romney’s claim that the terrorist organization was still a potent force.
Today is the first anniversary of the day when the new provisional government in Libya officially declared that they had ended Muammar Qadhafi’s tyranny. Last night, the president was effective in linking Romney’s policies with the failed presidency of George W. Bush. The difference between the president’s tactics in Libya and Bush’s approach to Iraq is the perfect illustration of President Obama’s superior performance. Bush’s defeat of Saddam Hussein resulted in the deaths of more than 4,000 brave young Americans. Working with the Libyan rebels, the current president got rid of Qadhafi without the loss of a single American life.
Point, set, and match to the president.
By: Brad Bannon, U. S. News and World Report, October 23, 2012
“Only Conservatives Can Represent The Troops”: Republicans Attack Filmmaker For Doing Research On Osama bin Laden Movie
Conservatives are apparently very upsetthat the Obama administration talked to Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal for their upcoming movie about the campaign to hunt down Osama bin Laden—despite the fact that Bigelow and Boal have been clear that the movie will cover the Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations:
Complaining about the White House’s efforts to stall the organization’s requests for death photos of the Al-Qaeda leader, Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said, “These documents, which took nine months and a federal lawsuit to disgorge from the Obama administration, show that politically-connected filmmakers were giving extraordinary and secret access to bin Laden raid information, including the identity of a Seal Team Six leader.
“It is both ironic and hypocritical that the Obama administration stonewalled Judicial Watch’s pursuit of the bin Laden death photos, citing national security concerns, yet seemed willing to share intimate details regarding the raid to help Hollywood filmmakers release a movie ‘perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost’ to the Obama campaign.”
This is a silly complaint. First, the movie, Zero Dark Thirty, is coming out more than a month after the election precisely to avoid any suggestion that it’s an attempt to influence the campaign. Second, collaborating with a fictional movie project is as much of a risk for the Obama administration as it is a guarantee of an election slam dunk. Kathryn Bigelow is the inverse of a director like Michael Bay who’s willing to rent his opinions to the government in exchange for lots and lots of military hardware. She’s got a very specific vision, one that isn’t particularly triumphalist and is based more on the front lines than in the halls of power.
And finally, what this kind of objection really reveals is an attempt by conservatives to preserve the idea that only they can authentically represent the troops. When Act of Valor casts real SEALs for parts in a silly, overdramatized movie, that’s supposed to be a move so dedicated to honoring members of the military that there’s no valid way to critique it. But when Bigelow and Boal do research to try to give their movie verisimilitude, they’re dupes who couldn’t possibly care about the truth of the story they’re trying to tell.
By: Allyssa Rosenberg, Think Progress, May 24, 2012